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Just Desserts

If you type the word “puddin’” too many times, it ceases to be a word. But if you read the book Puddin’ too many times, all that will happen is that you finish a great book!

Just Desserts

BOOK REPORT for Puddin’ (Dumplin’ #2) by Julie Murphy

Cover Story: Aren’t You The Sweetest
BFF Charm: Yay and Eventually
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: As Refreshing As A Cold Lemonade On A Hot Summer’s Day
Bonus Factors: Friendship, Diversity, Crafting, Mother-Daughter Relationships
Relationship Status: Good Friends

Cover Story: Aren’t You The Sweetest

While not as dramatic as Willowdean’s cover, this is nonetheless super cute. Millie is wearing a dress she actually wears in the novel, and Callie is all suited up in her Shamrocks uniform. I love that the covers tie together and both are eye-catching in their simplicity.

The Deal:

Millie is still riding the wave of camaraderie and happiness she felt after competing in and winning the Clover City beauty pageant. She’s decided that instead of going to the fat camp her mom went to and has sent her to for most of her life, she’s getting into a prestigious journalism camp! And in order to maintain her friendships with their little band of pageant rebels, Millie is instituting weekly slumber parties for her, Amanda, Willowdean, Hannah, and Ellen.

Callie has often felt like her fellow dancers in the Shamrocks are her friends, but her particular group could’ve coined the phrase “frenemies”. When the Shamrocks lose their sponsorship from a rinky-dink local gym, they are also losing their chance at Nationals. In retribution, the girls get destructive and vandalize the gum, but in her supreme misfortune Callie is the only one who gets caught. Instead of pressing charges, the gym owners make her work off her debt by helping out at the gym.

To Callie’s surprise, the gym is actually owned by Millie’s uncle, and she's even more surprised when she learns Millie is her new coworker. Millie isn’t thrilled with Callie’s actions, but she senses the girl needs a true friend, and, well...Millie Michalchuk hasn’t met a lost cause she couldn’t fix.

BFF Charm: Yay and Eventually

You can dismiss Millie as all sunshine and roses, but she does have a thoughtful side and has her insecurities, though she tends to process them better than most. She's always looking for the good in the bad. She’s mostly at peace with her body, and if only we were all that confident in ourselves. It was endearing to see her so giddy at the thought of deepening her friendships, while also worrying that the other girls would find her silly for suggesting things like slumber parties and all that it entails. But I would be totally grateful for a friend who wants to be my friend that badly. You rock, Millie!

In all honesty, though, I am way more of a Callie: sarcastic, finding it hard to connect to people, and unsure of my place in the world. Where we differ is that she needs to get past all that high school drama and take responsibility for her actions. She’s on her way, and if she can keep people like Millie in her life she may just make it there.

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

Callie and Millie both have love interests which are more sweet than heart-pounding. In the end, romantic love is not what this book is about, and while these parts were fine, I was more interested in the friendships (though I think everyone who cared a lot for Mitch in the first book will be happy with his story here).

Talky Talk: As Refreshing As A Cold Lemonade On A Hot Summer’s Day

Sweet with just a bit of a sour bite: that’s how this book went down. Just when hanging out in Millie’s viewpoint seemed too good to be true, you’ve got Callie’s sharpness to mellow out the mixture. As with Dumplin’, this book straddled the line between real life and Disney after-school special by adding some extra, tasteful bedazzling. I think we need to find the proper sub-genre classification for this type of contemporary work, where it’s our world but a bit better, because I think I’ve typed the same idea like four different ways and still not conveyed exactly what I want to say. Regardless, this was a great companion novel to Dumplin’ that managed to stand on its own (though I think having the extra background insight to all the characters does help make it more meaningful).

Bonus Factor: Friendship

At the end of a great book on friendship you want to call up your besties and thank them for being in your life, or give 'em a little extra squeeze the next time you hug. Friendship can be one of the best things we do in this life, even with all of its ups and downs, as with any important relationship.

Bonus Factor: Diversity

We already know Julie Murphy is great at starting discussions about body image and celebrating all body types, whether you’re happy with yourself or not. The characters also have frank discussions on sexuality, specifically being asexual. It’s a topic I’m starting to see be explored more in YA, which I think is great.

Bonus Factor: Crafting

Millie and her mom haven’t met a pillow or a picture frame they haven’t wanted to cross-stitch a motivational phrase onto. I haven’t cross-stitched since I was an early teen, but seeing so much of the awesome art our crafty readers (and our own writers, like Jennie!) create really inspires me!

Bonus Factor: Mother-Daughter Relationships

Callie and Millie both have issues to work through with their moms, and it felt very authentic. Moms: some days you love ‘em, some days you want to (lovingly) throttle them. It’s also a look at how each generation, whether they mean to or not, passes on their hopes and fears and hang-ups to the next. It’s a tough cycle to break.

Relationship Status: Good Friends

I may not be braiding a permanent friendship bracelet for you quite yet, Book, but we had some good times together and I would absolutely invite you over for a girls’ night in, slumber party extravaganza! You bring the snacks, I’ll bring the makeover supplies.

Literary Matchmaking:

  

• I could go with the obvious and say read Dumplin’ because, duh, but if you already have, then may I recommend Jen Doll’s excellent Unclaimed Baggage, which is also about friendship in a small Southern town. 

• Written by two actual real-life BFFs, I Hate Everyone But You looks at how a friendship survives after high school and all the realities that entails. 

• Perhaps this is more of a downer, but Jeff Zentner’s Goodbye Days is a look at what happens when friendships tragically end. Zentner is also great at portraying the complex nature of small towns. 

FTC Full Disclosure: I purchased my own copy of this book. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Puddin’ is available now.

Stephanie Johnston's photo About the Author: Stephanie is an avid reader who moonlights as a college Educational Advisor. Though she now calls Orlando home, she grew up all over the U.S. Aside from her obsession with YA books and book-related activities, Stephanie loves watching way too much television, reading organizational/DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.